In my house, one of Dan’s designated duties is defacto dish do’er. Despite a disposition for dallying, I decided decades ago to do the dirty dishes daily. (Sorry… I think I caught a touch of alliteration over the long holiday weekend… hopefully it will pass but I apologize for any lingering after-effects). My point is, I do not like having a sink full of dirty dishes hanging over my head all day (which literally and figuratively could get very messy). As a rule, I don’t leave the house or go to bed without making sure everything is either clean and back in the cabinets or uniformly aligned in the dish-washer awaiting their eventual splooshy ablution from the appliance gods.
Long before we said our ‘I dos’ the wife and I discussed which things were our biggest ‘I don’ts’ and divvied up our most hated household headachy chores. That is how she became the primary laundry folder with the well-honed creasing, pleating and anti-puckering skills of a Ninja Origami Queen and I developed into Dish King, ruler of all plates, pots and glasses that require de-gunking.
Crazily keepin’ the kitchen clean and not leaving until the sink is empty has become a near-obsessive habit for me. I picture myself stoically standing sink-side stubbornly scrubbing a pile of putrid plates to completion as tornado evacuation sirens roar, flood waters rise up over my ankles, the hurricane winds pound the windows and fiery flames lick up the walls about to engulf the kitchen curtains.
My wife gets to enjoy the spic and span beneficial byproduct of my clean sink obsession but the fact is, it’s just not that important to her. This need for a clean empty sink is my own nuttiness. Luckily, we are both very good at not judging and letting the other wallow in the insanity of their own personal routines, paranoias and obsessions. That said, I know some of my habits just plain annoy her.
Like I have ‘this thing’ I do whenever I fly somewhere. Within my luggage, I always have a plastic bag that I eventually shove in the seat pocket in front of me to hold my newspapers, phone charger, tablet, lip balm, pen, eyedrops, ear buds and any snack I might be bringing aboard. It’s not a grocery store type plastic bag but more like those tall heavier flat ones you would get at a magazine shop… if magazine shops still existed. I reuse the same stuffed bag numerous flights until it falls apart. Although ever changing, the bags usually are from some place interesting I’ve been, so often just the sight of it brings back a memory and makes me smile. I used one from Graceland till the lettering almost completely smudged off and a scary bright pink one from a scuba shop in Nassau for almost as long.
If I am checking my suitcase, I wait till I am just about to hand over my luggage then I open my bag right there on the terminal floor and pull out my tattered traveling tote. When carrying on, I pull out my plastic bag ‘o’ plane-seat crap right after security in that makeshift post TSA checkpoint put-your-stuff-back-on area that always kinda looks like a locker room for people that would never use a gym. When I eventually get off the plane, I repeat the process in reverse.
My wife does all her prep stuff at home and thinks my little system is nuts. She would never open a stuffed suitcase in the middle of a crowded airport floor if all that could be done in advance. Unfortunately, her airport bugaboo is that she is not comfortable unless she is sitting, waiting to board right near the plane. So I end up frustrating her by delaying her routine by indulging in mine.
She humors me and does not say anything as I retrieve or stow my plastic on-flight bag, but I can tell by her expression that she is not happy waiting for me to get through my rebarbative repetitive rigmarole routine slowing her down from getting to her comfort zone by the gate. To make matters worse, she also cannot conceive why I use an old plastic bag instead of a more permanent better-made real case, bag or satchel for my stuff. I have tried to explain, it is just what I do, but just like I don’t really understand why we have to be in eyeshot of the gate long before the flight, we let each other slide.
So recently I found myself napping in the back of an Uber to the airport. I did not wake up till right near the airport. Still woogy, I slipped out of the car and walked right up to the kiosk to confirm my flight. As my luggage tag was printing, I looked up and there was no line, just a woman behind the counter waving me over. It must have been some sort of record; in less than two minutes I went from inside the cab to standing in the security line.
Then it hit me. My bag!?!?. My plastic bag o’ plane crap. My newspapers! My phone charger! My tablet! My lip balm! My pen!. My eyedrops! My earbuds! My snack! No, not lost or left in the car. I have a routine and it prevented that. No, I always take out my bag in the airport. I just did not follow through on my routine and I checked in my suitcase without removing my tattered-up plastic bag from a giant German grocery store with the biggest selection of wurst I had ever seen in my life. Every time I see that plastic bag it makes me smile thinking of the three plus full aisles jam-packed with what must be every sausage known to mankind: brat, knack, bock, mett, weiss, liver, bregen, jage, tee, curry, gelb, landjager… and on and on.
I walked around in a daze. I felt naked. I wondered what wayward wacky world I was stepping into. What would I read in the airport? How would I recharge my phone? How would I watch movies on the plane? Will my lips get chapped? What if I had to write something down? Will my eyes dry out and flop out the front of my face? How would I listen to anything?
My whole routine was breaking down. My rituals and habits lay dying on the crowded airport floor in front of me where my luggage should have been sprawled open with my comfortable old plastic bag easily accessible. I priced replacement earphones, phone chargers and the rest of my crap but refused to pay $120 at an airport store for $30 worth of junk that I already owned and would be reunited with in about four hours.
I tried to remember what I did before I carried a plastic bag of crap to shove in the seat pocket. I used to just bring a single book. A book. Hmmmmmmm. I happily scoured the three terminal bookstores till I found one that had been recommended to me months earlier. I sat by the gate, cracked the spine of the new hardcover, smelt the fresh crisp pages and read. Then I sat on the plane and read. It was a pleasant change. I really did not miss my torn-up plastic bag ‘o’ crap. I thought how happy my wife would be if this became my new routine. Just a man and his book.
A few days later I got to the airport early for my flight home and everything went smooth except for one little problem. With my half-read new book wedged in there next to all my usual crap, my holey German plastic bag did not fit in the seat pocket anymore.